Florida Supreme Court Requests More Info in Medical Marijuana Licensing Dispute

Oral arguments were heard in a case before the Florida Supreme Court between the Florida Department of Health and Florigrown, which seeks to be registered as a medical marijuana treatment center (MMTC) in accordance with an amendment to the Florida constitution passed in 2016. A day after hearing oral arguments, the Supreme Court requested additional briefing.

In 2016, Florida voters supported reforms to the state’s already-existing medical marijuana laws, expanding the medical conditions for which marijuana could be prescribed. The amendment also changed the standards by which a firm could be registered to provide medical marijuana. The case arose out of the manner in which the new licensing system which was implemented by the Florida legislature after the amendment was passed. Florigrown, the plaintiffs below, alleged that the legislature’s implementing statute used the pre-amendment licensing requirements, which required licensees to be able to undertake the cultivation, processing, and selling of Marijuana. Florigrown alleged that this was contrary to the language of the amendment, which would expand medical marijuana licensing to include firms that only participated in one of those steps. Florigrown filed suit and won a temporary injunction; the Florida Department of Health appealed. The Appeals court also sided with Florigrown.

In its opening brief, the Florida Department of Health stated that “nothing in the Amendment alters the legislature’s power to make policy decisions related to the regulatory oversight of medical marijuana in Florida.” The state emphasized Florigrown’s lack of expertise, stating “The company—the Respondent in these proceedings—is run by a web video producer and owned by Joe Redner, neither of whom are botanists, pharmacists, physicians or have any professional experience or credentials in the medical field.”

Florigrown alleged in its answer brief that the state legislature had fundamentally altered the licensing system, granting only a few licenses. They also alleged that “the Legislature used the licensing requirements to settle cases in litigation [regarding their failure to qualify under the pre-amendmentsystem] by granting licenses to that limited class of applicants—to the exclusion of others, regardless of qualifications.”

The Supreme Court requested supplemental briefing on “whether [Florigrown] have a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their challenge to section 381.986(8)(a)1, (a)2.a., and (a)3., Florida Statutes (2017), as a special law granting a privilege to a private corporation.” The Florida Department of Health must file its brief by May 27, and Florigrown must replay within ten days of the government’s reply.